Monday, August 20, 2007

Wouldn't you love to own this wonderful "INVENTORY"?

I'm about to post up another rant...

I have long had an issue with business school terminology sneaking into general usage. It all goes back to about 1987 when I worked at the Heartthrob Cafe & Philadelphia Bandstand in downtown St. Paul, MN. I was a Soda Jerk. It was a great job, and there was a pretty good staff.

One of the managers that came in when the restaurant opened was a business school graduate from Chicago. She found out a couple of things during her first winter in Minnesota. The first thing that she found out was that Chicago wasn't really that cold. The other thing she found out was that people don't want a big plate full of grilled product. There was a corporate head chef that went around to all of the locations and made sure that every single dish was up to snuff. He met with the staffs to make sure that the delivery experience was exactly how it should be, and he wanted everyone in the place to remember that people were choosing to give us money in order to eat great food. Notice that it wasn't product, but food.

I don't remember the manager's name that said the offending phrase, but I remember the exchange well.

Manager: "Remember, when you deliver product to the table,.."

Corp Guy: "Excuse me, what did you say?"

Manager: "When you deliver product..."

Corp Guy: "Stop. (looks at assembled staff) You don't deliver PRODUCT. You deliver FOOD. People eat FOOD. People don't eat product. I NEVER want to hear our food referred to as product."

Manager: "I think you are just being picky. Everyone knows that the product is food, but it is just easier to call it product. That was how we did it in business school."

Corp Guy: "So, your telling me that in business school you learned that people would prefer to eat a plate of product rather than a seared, hand rubbed steak that is cooked to perfection? I bet they would also prefer to listen to product rather than dance to a great song. How about commuting to work in a product rather than enjoying the drive in their convertible Mustang? It isn't easier to say product instead of food, car or music. I think you are smart enough that your vocabulary can include all of those words."

Manager: "That's unfair..."

Corp Guy: "Really? Do you think that all of the wait staff should go up to the tables and ask them how their product tastes? Or if everything is fine with the product? Does anyone need more product?"

Manager: "Of course not."

Corp Guy: "Why?"

Manager: "It doesn't sound special or appealing."

Corp Guy: "Really? But we shouldn't think of it as food? We should think of it as just a random product? No, I think what needs to change is that you need to remember what we do here. We serve food."

Manager: "Yes Sir."

She never called it product again.

So, was there a point? Yes. Many of us do the same thing with homes. We refer to them privately, and sometimes even publicly as inventory. These are the places that our clients raise their children. They find out the best and worst news of their lives. They retreat to these places to relax, enjoy family time, and rejuvenate themselves each day. They spend their time, money and energy to show the world that they love this place.

It isn't inventory. It is someone's home. People don't do all of that for their inventory. Inventory isn't where the heart is.

Home is!

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